ARC Reviews

The Lake House by Sarah Beth Durst


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ARC was given by NetGalley & HaperTeen in exchange for an honest review.

This review is being published before the release date (April 25, 2023)

Content/Trigger Warnings: Death, murder, depictions of blood, stalking, gun violence, violence, on page suicide, depictions of anxiety & panic attacks, mentions automotive accident (in the past), graphic injuries

“And the worst part wasn’t that there was a dead body here. The worst part was that somewhere out there… was a killer.”

First off, let me start by saying how excited I am to finally be able to share this review now that the HarperCollins strike has ended! I really enjoyed my time buddy reading this book with two of my favorite people and I’ve been eagerly waiting to tell you all about it. I never thought I’d be someone who gets into survival thriller books, but here we are and now I’m keeping my eyes peeled for more survival thrillers. And if the survival thriller aspect doesn’t lure you in, let the cover intrigue you enough to give this book a chance especially for fall reading!

Claire has spent her whole life making lists in her head of worst case scenarios, triple checking and preparing for anything, including the worst case scenarios. It’s just how she’s wired, but most people worry for her including her parents. So much worry, in fact, that they ship Claire off to a summer camp bonding experience with two other girls. However, things suddenly turn dark when the three girls are left on the island, ready to enjoy their week of bonding, when they discover the lake house they’re supposed to stay at is burned to the ground and they find a dead body in the woods. They’ll soon realize that nothing is by accident and someone, something is hunting them and refuses to let go.

Honestly, I loved our cast of characters! Reyva was probably my favorite out of everyone just due to the fact that even though she’s bonding with Claire and Mariana, she’s the person we really have to peel the layers back with. Reyva is the character we find the backstory and details of last, and that’s just by her character’s design. I loved it so much and Reyva is also a gamer, which you know I love a good game I can curl up with for hours. Mariana was such a fun time though! For starters, Mariana loves cars and gets really passionate about it. I adored reading the sections of Mariana talking about it. Seeing characters being passionate about the things they love and adore is like drinking a glass of cold water, refreshing and energizes my soul! Out of all of the characters, Claire was the hardest for me to connect with and I think it’s just due to the way Claire is written. While it’s clear Claire has severe anxiety and intense overthinking, it wasn’t clear on if she also has agoraphobia (the fear of open or public places) which I would have liked some clarification on due to having quite a few passages about how Claire never really liked going out into to public or liked being in public places. Either way, I still appreciate the anxiety representation, despite not having that clarification. All together, I enjoyed these three girls together and I loved the way the book concluded with the three girls, as well.

“Reyva said, quieter, “I don’t know who told you that broken means weak, but that’s bullshit. You are the smartest, most capable person I’ve ever met. And just because your body doesn’t behave the way you want it to all the time does not mean that you aren’t strong.”

There were so many fantastic discussions happening throughout this book between Claire, Mariana, and Reyva. A lot of conversations surrounding mental health and how some times the world, and people, make you believe that there’s something really wrong with you when there’s not. There’s underlying discussions surrounding stigmas with mental health and how you can internalize not feeling enough, how having mental health hardships or a disability somehow makes you weak or you feel broken, and I loved watching these girls talk about this and shoot it all down. I have a lot of love for books that can have discussions surrounding mental health, shoot the negative down, and at the end be like, “You are so much more than just your mental health.” And I felt this book conveyed that in a really good way. What I loved even more than these discussions was the fact that it brought the three girls closer together and strengthened their bonds. Seeing the author write that into the story made me really soft and sappy, and I don’t think I’ll ever get over how much it warmed my heart.

All of the character love and the mental health talk aside, the atmosphere was really good. Even though I haven’t read this book in a hot minute, I still vividly remember the atmosphere. I remember how I just wanted to keep reading and was so captivated. The minute the girls are dropped off on the island and discovered the lake house was burned down, I had to make sure I was stocked on water and snacks because I knew I hunkering down until I finished this book. I think due to the atmosphere being well built, the pacing of the book read so fast for me, personally. However, I will admit that I went into this book with the mindset of wanting to have a fun, captivating, thrilling time and I felt I had received that in my reading experience.

“There was something wrong. Wrong about the house, wrong about the cave, wrong about the forest and the sudden storms and the birds that fell quiet.”

If I had to say anything bad about this book or say what others might not like about this book, it would probably boil down to two things. The first thing being the storyline. Let me just say, the storyline is a wild ride and even though I enjoyed it, I think readers will either have a fun time or absolutely hate the direction it goes. I think for those who will be on the disliking end of the direction the storyline goes will feel like the storyline is odd or potentially come off as half-baked. And the dislike for the storyline also ties in with the second thing, the ending or the conclusion to the book. Now, this was my only issue with this book, but it wasn’t enough to make me knock a star or anything like that. The ending felt very unsatisfying with how things concluded on the island and the way it was wrapped up. Again, I loved watching all three of the girls meet up and still get that happy ending, but everything else before that scene felt like something was missing or almost like the author took the easy way out to wrap up the book.

Overall, I had a fantastic time reading this. Again, I loved chatting about this book with my friends and fellow buddy readers. It was a great read for us all around and some of the discussions we had surrounding the book were some of the most memorable conversations I’ve ever had. There was just so many great things about this book and I think readers will have a lot of appreciation for the anxiety rep, disabled/chronic pain rep, the lgbtqiap+ rep, and the atmosphere. I love a good spooky atmosphere for a read. This is a very autumnal read and I definitely recommend curling up with it during the Halloween season or just a really stormy day!

Buddy read with Ashley & Destiny

The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.



When No One Is Watching by Alyssa Cole


ALC provided by and HarperAudio in exchange for an honest review.

This review is being published after the release date (September 1st, 2020)

Content/Trigger Warnings: Gentrification, racism, microaggressions, victim playing/self-victimization (from a side character), talk of slavery, brief mentions of colonization, loss of a loved one, talk of financial debt, (medical) debt harassment, harassment, allusions to stalking, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, talk of cheating (in the past from a side character), talk of domestic abuse (in the past), cycles of abuse, gaslighting (in the past), toxic relationships, mentions of hospitalization, talk of institutionalization, murder, scene of attempted abduction, brief mention of animal abuse, brief mention of suicide, forced medical experimentation, talk of drug addiction and drug dealing, violence, threats of calling the police, police brutality

I really want to recommend checking out the reviews by the following people: Jazmen, Myonna, Carole, Robin, and Shakila Marie. Each one of these lovely souls has a beautifully written review talking about what they loved and disliked, and I can’t recommend them enough.

I’ve never read anything by Alyssa Cole before. In fact, as I was listening to this audiobook, I’m reading one of her romance books, A Princess In Theory. So going into this book not knowing much about it, about the author’s writing style, or the author, I was completely surprised by this book. This was so hard to pause and go to sleep at night because all I wanted was to know what was about to happen next. As someone who isn’t the biggest reader of thrillers, I enjoyed this immensely and I hope many readers will pick this book up soon!

Our story bounces between two perspectives, Sydney and Theo’s point of views. Sydney is Black, recently divorced, and has moved back to her hometown in Brooklyn, New York to help her ailing mother. Theo is white and has recently moved into one of Sydney’s past neighbor’s home with his abusive ex-girlfriend, to renovate the home they now reside in. As she sits upon the stoop of their brownstone, she realizes just how much her neighborhood has been changing. The neighbors she once knew are no longer there and seem to be replaced by high class families and couples. But as all this is happening, Sydney is trying to compile extensive information about the Black history of her neighborhood for a tour she’s planning to do and Theo volunteers to help her in anyway he can. Meanwhile, as they continue to compile the information for the tour, more and more Black people in the community continue to disappear under strange circumstances. And the more Sydney and Theo dive into the history of the neighborhood, the more unsettling activities have been happening.

I think this is the first book I’ve ever read that accurately talks about gentrification and how it impacts communities. In my opinion, this is the scariest part about this whole entire book because gentrification is still in full force today. As someone who lives in a state that suffers from ‘top to bottom’ gentrification and ‘bottom to top’ gentrification, the scariest part is how quickly things happen, how silent many people stay, and seeing how people resign themselves to what’s happening. Having had conversations with those who have been effected by gentrification, it’s gut wrenching to hear those stories. Many people don’t want to look too closely or acknowledge that a lot of these things happen because of poorly structured systems or how they’re structured from racism. From prisons systems, police forces, all the way to major corporations, they’re broken in someway that benefits the people on top and does harm to those of the lower class. A lot of people choose to ignore how BIPOC communities are impacted because they don’t want to feel uncomfortable, they don’t want to change these systems especially when it benefits them in some way.

“People bury the parts of history they don’t like, pave it over like African cemeteries beneath Manhattan skyscrapers.”

I also want to give this gentle reminder; those who are BIPOC, it’s not their job to educate you on history, privilege, and the events that still continue to happen in present day. However, Cole unapologetically does that. She addresses gentrification, she talks about the privilege many non-BIPOC have, she shows the divide between higher and lower class homes, and so much more. Cole doesn’t shy away from any of it and goes into details of how even the smallest act plays a role in the bigger scheme of things. Alyssa Cole didn’t have to write about any of this, but she did and I have the utmost respect for her, and the labor that was poured into this book. I truly hope many people take the contents of this book, sit with it, start to recognize the privileges they have.

The relationship between Theo and Sydney was definitely interesting to see. I really liked how it wasn’t a perfect relationship and how there was a theme of trust need to be earned, not given. I really appreciated that element because I’m a firm believer that trust and respect are earned, not given. And I’m not going to lie, that steamy scene between Sydney and Theo was so good. As I said, I’m just now diving into Alyssa Cole’s work and just this scene alone has me really excited for her romance novels.

This book does a fantastic job of building up the story and encouraging the reader to keep reading. I mentioned above that I had a hard time setting this audiobook on pause because I needed to know what would happen next. I think for many readers, the slow pacing might cause some readers to struggle, but for my personal reading experience of the the audiobook, I think the pacing fit. So, I definitely encourage picking up the audiobook. Plus, the way Alyssa Cole writes is so beautiful and has such a way at capturing the reader’s attention.

I think the only real issue, for many readers, might be the ending of the book. Once you hit the 75% mark, things begin the escalate very rapidly. I think this will cause the ending to be a hit or miss for some readers. For myself, it wasn’t a huge issue because I tend to get wrapped up in the action of the events that take place, but for readers who enjoy more details in their thrillers, this might be a struggle.

Overall, I truly hope many readers pick this book up. As I mentioned a plethora of times, this book doesn’t shy away from important topics that deserve to be talked about more. It’s such a powerful read with very atmospheric elements woven in. And the sense of community alone is such a powerful force throughout this book, as a whole. I can honestly say that I’ve been blown away and I’m even more excited to dive further into Alyssa Cole’s work. Again, I can’t encourage everyone enough to pick this book up especially the audiobook.

The quotes above were taken from an ALC and are subject to change upon publication.



The Wives by Tarryn Fisher


Content/Trigger Warnings: Domestic violence, stalking, graphic discussions of miscarriage and stillbirth, polygamy, references to child abuse, references to murder and suicide, infertility, gun violence, murder, mentions of clausterphobia, trauma, and much more!

Friends, this wasn’t it for me. I don’t know where to begin with this. How to express how many times I cringed, to talk about how this book affected my mental health, or the fact that after I finished reading this book I felt completely drained and left on a terrible note. This is my first Tarryn Fisher book and honestly, I’m disappointed.

Our story follows our main character, twenty-eight year old Thursday, who’s married to Seth. Seth has two other wives besides Thursday. She doesn’t know anything about these other wives, but one day, everything changes when Thursday finds something. Something that’s going to wake her up to something horrifying.

The best place I can start with this is the beginning. Despite the slow build, I was really enjoying the the beginning. With that kind of beginning, the author could’ve taken it in a really dark and creative path. So I liked how the foundation to our story was being built. It was really promising which makes the rest of this even more disappointing.

The other thing I want to address is the way miscarriage and mental health have gone hand in hand in this book. Despite the fact that the author took these to the extreme, I’m glad that the author showed how miscarriages can impact someone’s mental health and how hard it is to come to terms with that kind of loss.

It would have been fantastic if the author actually cared enough to list content/trigger warnings. Now, speaking about the miscarriage and mental health, I had so many issues with this. Let me make one thing clear, I have had two miscarriages in the past, have fertility issues, and have struggled with mental health for years. So I’m going to expressing how a lot of this really sent me for a loop. Starting with the mental health, the author took the mental health to the absolute extremes in this book and getting closer to the end of the book kept repeatedly stating how those who are mentally ill, those who are in mental institutions are “crazy”. This is extremely harmful terminology and as someone who has battled against their mental health for years, when I read that it felt like someone had crushed my soul. This is very problematic and degrading, bottom-line. Reading those sections, you can feel how much the author believes that and it’s when authors paint representation like this that it becomes harmful, it can influence others to believe this, and nothing good comes from any of this. If you’re going to write about mental health, do your research and represent it properly because this wasn’t it. As for the miscarriage, the whole book revolves around the miscarriage. So if this is a sensitive topic for you, don’t pick it up. The miscarriage is used as a whole plot device and it’s a lot to try to read through. We get a scene where the husband, Seth may have caused two miscarriages, but we never find out the answer to that and yet it’s hinted that he did, but never elaborated on. For the most part, it felt like the miscarriage was used for shock value or to help push the story forward. The whole thing was handled really poorly and with no sensitivity towards those who have suffered miscarriages.

“Amazing how once you open a door for something, there’s no going back. All you can do is brace yourself as you get sucked in, deeper and deeper.”

I wish I could stop there, but there’s other things that need to be addressed. For example, the mental institution representation. Completely non-believable. It’s very clear the author never did any research on this because actual mental hospitals have tight regulations, security that won’t quit, and nurses that have eyes like hawks. And when all else fails, most doors in mental hospitals only work with keycards or a physical key. It almost felt like author decided to create their own Arkham Asylum. The author also thought it was productive to include a whole bit about how “if you pretend” to get better then you’ll get out faster. This was a huge slap to the face of professionals who work in mental wards, mental institutions, and have made it their job to help those who struggle with mental health. It was literally like saying they’re not observant enough to notice when one of their clients isn’t actually improving or may be acting along. As I said, most people who make this their profession in life have eyes like hawks.

And there’s plenty other issues with this book. I’m not a big thriller or horror reader, but even I know that every cliche trope from those two genres have felt like they were thrown into this book. The plot holes still plague my mind and I still wish I had answers. We also get little scraps of Mormonism in this book and when you think we might see some insight to those religious beliefs or something, we get nothing. We also have a racist jab at Hispanics and a scene with a transphobic remark. Then there’s the fact that throughout this entire book all you feel is hatred. You feel hatred for the husband, for the other wives, for the ex, for the parents, for the coworkers, a little hatred towards the best friend, and even self-hatred from the main character. It was a never ending river of hatred. That amount of hatred this book has is enough to make someone sick.

Overall, I don’t want to waste more time talking about this book than what I already have. I understand why this book would appeal to mystery/thriller readers, but you need to understand that there’s no social awareness and that a lot of the content in this book is extremely harmful, problematic, and degrading. This book didn’t work for me, it wasn’t it, and I want to bleach the memory of this book from my mind.

Buddy read with Destiny at Howling Libraries | Her Review 💜